It has been exciting to see so much activity on Consanguinity this week. I enjoyed reading the comments on Matt’s post, which is why I have chosen to recap that discussion and provide my own take on it. Matt established a growing problem in the Religious Right, excessive partisanship, and reminded us that our only commitment is to Christ and the Church, not to any political entity, which reminds me of some of my favorite words that Jesus spoke. Pilate asks him “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” Clearly divine citizenship is of a greater kind than worldly citizenship.
The interesting question debated in the comments is this: is it right for someone to abstain from voting between two presidential candidates that he cannot fully endorse, even if one is clearly more compatible with his political views? This question has been a hot topic ever since James Dobson said that he could not vote for John McCain on account of his views on abortion and stem-cell research. It does seem, however, that McCain supports the general political stance that Dobson would support, when these two issues are cast aside. It must be true, then, that in Dobson’s view, it would be better for John McCain to be President of the United states than a Democratic candidate. What possible benefit could come from such a stance, which at first glance seems arrogant and disrespectful of our privilege to vote? I wish to briefly consider the pros and cons of such a move.
First, James Dobson has a lot of visibility as a religious figure in the United States. His decision to abstain from voting for president has already made a splash and may go a long way to provide an impetus for change within the Republican party, or perhaps within the Evangelical Church’s voting base, to find candidates with Biblical views. In this way, his abstaining becomes a kind of “civil disobedience,” inasmuch as he means to bring about political change by doing so. It is important to see that a normal citizen, deprived of the visibility of someone such as James Dobson, has very little leverage to bring about this kind of change, which means that it is much harder for a private citizen to justify abstaining.
While it is hard for me to make an overall judgment in this matter, I see some real potential dangers with this move. First of all, if enough evangelicals follow suit by not voting, “Roe v. Wade” will stay alive for another 25 years, and it won’t be God’s judgment on America, but the Evangelical church that is to blame for the thousands of babies being aborted daily. Second, many may not understand that Dobson’s move is largely based on his significant visibility, or misunderstand him in another way, which could ultimately lead to a laxidasical stance toward voting in general. Third, Dobson may now be perceived as arrogant and politically “holier than thou” by non-Christians all across America, which can ultimately become yet another barrier hindering the progress of the Gospel.
Matt helped us see that the Religious Right needs to change. It is much harder to see how that should be accomplished.
-James, the younger brother